Thursday, August 11, 2011

Whatever happened to....ex-ODU recruit Sharon Houston?

Stumbled across this item about Indiana University-Northwest star Sharon Houston having her jersey displayed in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, and it got us to wondering: Suppose Houston had been able to keep her talents at Old Dominion?

As ODU fans no doubt remember, Houston was the jewel of the Lady Monarchs' 2006 recruiting class, a stat-stuffing 6-3 foward out of Merriville, Ind. You know how Old Dominion had been "beating out" MEAC schools and places like Stetson for recruits of late? Houston chose ODU over Purdue and West Virginia.

Problem was, Houston never made it to her first ODU practice, with "personal reasons" the only explanation provided about her departure. Five years later, we're still not really sure what happened. But if Houston merely succumbed to a massive case of homesickness, well, she would hardly be the first freshman athlete to go out that way. Two days in Storrs, Conn. was all Elena Delle Donne needed to realize that while UConn sounded good, Delaware felt better. And before Larry Bird started building his legend at Indiana State, he was a confused freshman at Bobby Knight's Indiana University. Bird spent less than a month in Bloomington before scrambling back home.

In Houston's case, this much is clear - Old Dominion is about 700 miles from Merriville. Indiana University-Northwest is 8 miles from Merriville. And at least in basketball terms, there's been no place like home. A three-time All-American, Houston led the NAIA Division II nation last season in scoring (23.6 ppg), rebounding (16.1 rpg) and blocks (3.6 bpg).

Clearly, Houston is a woman among girls at this level; her talent is worthy of an NCAA Division I home. Well, for a few weeks there, she was at one. Superior post play, long the bedrock of Lady Monarchs hoops, has been in short supply in recent years. For years ODU was routinely among the nation's leaders - if not THE nation's leader - in rebounding. Two years ago, the Lady Monarchs finished sixth in the CAA on the boards. ODU has not led its own conference in rebounding since the 2005-06 season - the year before Houston's layover in Norfolk.

Don't think Houston would be averaging 24 and 16 against Division I teams? We don't, either. So we'll cut those numbers in half. Even a 12 and 8 low-post performer, paired with Tiffany Green and Jessica Canady, and later with Tia Lewis, could have made ODU a lot tougher to deal with these past few years.

Would it have been enough to keep ODU's CAA title-winning streak intact? Enough to keep the heat off Wendy Larry? Who knows? But we would have loved to have seen it play out.

Of course, you can play this game with just about any school. Take Virginia. Suppose high school all-everything forward Elizabeth Williams had signed with the Cavaliers instead of Duke? Virginia did fit within the general parameters Williams outlined for choosing a school (relatively close to home, strong academics, etc.), and the Cavaliers were among her final five choices.

Signing Williams would have given Virginia two consensus Top 10 recruits in the 2011 class (with guard Bria Smith) and a third in the top 100 (Sarah Imovbioh). ESPN would be hailing this as a Top 5 recruiting class, maybe even Top 3 (let's face it, it's tough to beat UConn and Tennessee no matter who you get). With virtually everyone returning from last season, the Cavaliers might have gotten some preseason Top 25 love. And even if the rest of the nation wasn't ready to climb aboard the Cavaliers bandwagon, Optimism among Virginia fans would have been shooting through the John Paul Jones Arena roof.

With all this positivity swirling around, would anyone be asking Debbie Ryan to step aside?

The difference is that Ryan tried her best to land Williams; the player simply decided to enroll elsewhere. Larry actually did snag Houston, and for a few weeks there she was a full-fledged Lady Monarch. Can't help but imagine what might have been had she been able to stick with it.


  1. Didn't she go to MD and then transfer to Purdue?

  2. No, Houston picked ODU over Purdue at the 11th hour. Ironically, two recruits that did chose Purdue that year, Amber Harris and Dee Dee Jernigan, never played for the Boilermakers,either. Harris and Jernigan got releases when head coach Kristy Curry left Purdue for Texas Tech.

    The player who went to Maryland and then transferred to Purdue is Drey Mingo. Perhaps you're thinking of her....